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Testimony of Doris A. Payne
The Commission on Affordable Housing and Health Facility Needs
San Diego, California --- November 7, 2001

Good afternoon. My name is Doris Payne and I am the senior consultant at Marketscape Research and Consulting, a national consumer research firm headquartered here in San Diego, and secretary of the San Diego County Aging and Independence Services Advisory Council. Thank you for the opportunity to address you.

As you've probably heard from other speakers today, San Diego is in the midst of a critical housing crisis represented by a shortage of affordable workforce housing and housing for persons with special needs. This crisis is brought about by several factors:

  • state government policies that make it more profitable for local jurisdictions to approve the development of retail space over residential development;

  • local government fee structures and processing delays that make southern California one of the most expensive areas of the country to develop new housing;

  • a shortage of land zoned for multifamily housing;

  • builders and developers who find it easier and more profitable to build large single family homes in the suburbs than multifamily rental and ownership infill housing;

  • and, finally, NIMBYs who have their place in America's Finest City and who want to lock the door behind them before any one else moves in.

There is at least one additional factor, and that is the limited participation of the federal government. While not unique to southern California, the effects of meager federal funds for new affordable housing and the rehabilitation of existing housing, particularly for older persons, results in an inadequate supply at a time of growing need. Since the federal government has traditionally been the source of subsidies for senior housing, the shortfall results in too little housing to meet the growing needs of San Diego's low-income seniors.

And this population, as you well know, is only expected to explode over the next twenty years. Unless policies are put into place and funds made available now, there will clearly be too little housing that is affordable to San Diego's burgeoning older population.

Should I remind you that this population is likely to be disproportionately women, persons of color, and the mentally ill, frail and disabled - those with the fewest resources to help themselves through this crisis?

Today, I have two particular concerns to bring before you.

First, in order to accommodate a new federal courthouse in San Diego, a number of single room occupancy and inexpensive hotels have been, or are slated for, demolition. These rooms are "home" for many near-homeless seniors who are now being forced onto the streets. The numbers of homeless seniors in San Diego alone has doubled in the last two years. This action will send an entire new cohort of displaced older persons into the streets. They are already living at the bottom of the housing spectrum. . . there is nowhere else for them to go.

In every other segment of this community, if you remove low-income housing from the market, you are required to replace it. It doesn't matter whether you are a public or private entity. However, the federal government maintains that it is not bound by these local laws and, so far, there are no plans to replace the housing units that are being demolished by the government. That is bad public policy and I urge you to help the GSA see its responsibilities in this regard.

Second, because of a variety of economic issues, very little multifamily housing has been built in San Diego until the last 18 months. The result has been increased rent pressure as the market tightened for available units. (It is the supply and demand theory.) Rents have increased in market rate units at a far faster pace than those on fixed incomes could hope to bear. Furthermore, senior apartments with rent subsidies often have years-long wait lists. We need to increase the supply of senior apartments so that older persons have options other than foregoing meals or medicine in order to pay the rent.

Government programs that reduce the cost of debt service, provide construction loans, and offer incentive funds that can be used to leverage other grants and loans are sorely needed.

Some federal housing support programs must be specifically targeted to seniors, as they have been in the past. Otherwise, the affordable housing needs are so great among all groups that a large number of projects wind up competing for a small pool of money and, since senior housing was at one time funded more generously than it is today, the needs of seniors are perceived as secondary to the needs of families. Both groups are desperately needy, and we do not believe that the growing ranks of retired veterans, public servants, widows without pensions, and others should be faced with the desperate fears and choices that confront them.

Thank you for the opportunity to raise these issues. The San Diego County Aging and Independence Advisory Council shares my concerns about the housing needs of our older citizens, and we will be happy to provide any additional information that might be needed regarding specific incidence of homelessness and senior housing needs in the county.

Doris Payne, Marketscape Research & Consulting, 7851 Mission Center Court, #205 San Diego, CA 92108 Phone: 619-299-4028 Email:

The page was last modified on November 15, 2001